Blindspot creator Martin Gero has been remarkably bullish about his show in interviews, first declaring there are enough tattoos on Jane Doe’s body to fuel 10 network-sized seasons of television, then claiming the larger significance behind the tattoos could theoretically be solved by anyone who paid close enough attention to the pilot episode. If Gero is to be taken at his word, it means he’s given a lot of thought to both the short game and the long game where Blindspot is concerned. He claims to have a solid framework for the first three seasons, but apparently thinks there’s much more story to tell before the show reaches its endgame, which sounds fairly thought out.
Television producers are famous for making these kinds of proclamations only to fall short of their promises. It would be easy to put Blindspot in the “great promise squandered” category based on the pilot, but “A Stray Howl” is confident enough to suggest this show could solidify fairly quickly and hit its stride. It’s still way too early to tell, but it seems like Gero fully intends to invest time in the show’s central mystery rather than spin his wheels on the weekly cases. That’s a relief because a high concept procedural like Blindspot puts itself in a precarious position when the writers focus too intently on the episodic stories and forget the high concept was the initial draw and is the main thing keeping the audience invested. That doesn’t seem to be an issue here.
Blindspot is jumping right into the thick of things. Take for example Mysterious Bearded Man, who is introduced near the end of the pilot, first when Jane Doe flashes back to a target practice session with him, then when he slips into Chao’s hospital room to kill him. MBM’s appearance feels more like a promise of a future story to come than a plotline that will be immediately pursued. Yet he pops up a few times in “A Stray Howl.” Weller spots him on the security footage from the hospital where Chao was being treated. He pops up again while the team is hunting down an aggrieved former Air Force pilot with control of an armed drone within U.S. airspace. He’s back in the cliffhanger, with his hand wrapped around Jane’s mouth as her past and present collide far sooner than expected.
Even the mystery of Jane’s identity gets a surprising amount of attention given this is the second episode of a show that has, at least in theory, been mapped out to three seasons and beyond. Of course, any tidbits about that central mystery are either very small chunks of a larger story or outright red herrings, but there’s at least a working theory for who Jane is and what connects her to Weller. He notices a broad scar on the back of Jane’s neck and becomes convinced Jane is actually Taylor Shaw, a childhood friend who disappeared. Weller’s father, who is now battling lung cancer, was declared Taylor’s abductor by the community, but not the courts, and the incident tore Weller’s family apart.
Weller’s theory about Jane’s identity is certainly convenient inasmuch as it helps Weller to let go of the guilt he carries over Taylor’s disappearance. Plus, if Taylor appears, that means Weller’s father didn’t kill her, and Weller might have a chance to patch things up with his father before it’s too late. Jane probably isn’t Taylor, and hopefully that’s the case, because the question of Jane’s identity allows the show to play with some interesting themes.
While Weller grapples with his decades-old guilt, Jane has another flashback that leaves her feeling conflicted about whether she actually wants answers about who she was before. All that target practice Jane did paid off when it was time for her to slink up behind a nun and shoot her execution style in the house of God. Sure, there was probably a totally reasonable explanation for it, but all Jane can see in her mind’s eye is the contrast of the dark pool of blood against the nun’s all-white habit. “What if I find out who I am and I don’t like it?” she asks wistfully. Blindspot wears the Bourne influence on its sleeve when it explores Jane’s inner-conflict about her old identity and how much of it she wants to port over to her newly forming identity. But there seems to be far more to Jane Doe’s backstory—her reasons for agreeing to wear the clue tattoos and have her memories wiped—than a noble desire to serve.
Speaking of those clues, they are apparently linked together like a road map. Patterson, who has photographed and catalogued all the information in Jane’s tattoos, finds the second clue after noticing some similarities to the information in the tattoo that led to Chao. Part of the address is used as the keyword of a Vigenere cipher that reveals the name of Major Arthur Gibson, a rogue ex-pilot who wants revenge on the people who discarded him after an injury ended his flying career. The idea of the tattoos being linked together like a treasure map is sort of cool, but there’s still something that feels so clunky about the process of extracting the clues from the tattoos. The case-of-the-week is not great, but it’s not bad. The execution is at least solid, with multiple ticking-clock elements and clear stakes at all times.
But the episodic story demonstrates why the larger mystery is more important to the show’s long-term viability. Weekly cases are hit or miss as a rule, so it’s heartening to see Blindspot put so much energy into fleshing out its bigger questions.
- This episode takes place the very next day after the pilot, so the writers must be pacing this pretty slowly.
- I’m enjoying Ashley Johnson’s performance. She’s reminding me of Kevin Weisman in Alias, which is high praise.
- The dialogue is frequently terrible, and it seems like the writers save all the worst clunkers for Rob Brown.